29 November 2006

Careful with those statistics, Eugene!

[source, source]

Conventional wisdom tells us that: (1) the vast majority of US households have experienced no increase in real income for more than a quarter century; (2) real wages have been stagnant for that same period; (3) low-wage burger-flippers have replaced high-paid factory jobs; (4) only the top one percent or ten percent have benefited significantly from rising productivity or asset prices; and (5) the once-robust middle class has been shrinking.

Just about everybody treats those assertions as if they are facts. That includes politicians on both sides, talking-head partisans, economics correspondents, and columnists—many with undisguised or thinly-veiled political agendas. They are supposed to be the experts, and the masses (like me) have to trust them; after all, our busy lives permit us only a limited amount of time for paying attention to politicians and the press. When the experts are nearly unanimous, that’s a good signal that the five conventional wisdom assertions have to be true . . . isn’t it?

That brings us to the big surprise, which Alan Reynolds sums up clearly and concisely: “Not one of those statements is even remotely close to being true.?

Reynoldsincomeandwealth This book (Income and Wealth, by Alan Reynolds) is one of the best debunkings of conventional wisdom I’ve come across in a decade. It is a step-by-step dismantling of conventional wisdom about income and wealth distribution.

The best part is that this is a college textbook on economics, not just a popularization.

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No secrets from Big Sister

[source]

Going into the election, Pelosi and her lieutenants believed the vote would be close. Pelosi was making phone calls late into Wednesday night trying to persuade members to vote for Murtha.

But the ballot was a secret one. So members who supported Hoyer but didn’t want to anger Pelosi just told her what she wanted to hear.

Inside the room where the election was being held, there were boxes for members to drop their secret ballots. Pelosi and her crew watched as people voted. Some members actually brought fellow lawmakers with them when they marked their ballots so they could prove to Pelosi that they did vote for Murtha. And because the Murtha vote ended up being so small, the Pelosi forces can count almost down to the last ballot who voted for Murtha and who for Hoyer.

Just try to imagine the outcry had the Republican leadership violated a secret ballot in this manner. It does tell you what you need to know about what Democratic Party leaders are willing to do to maintain their power.

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